TEFL in Malaysia!
Here I interrupt my regularly-scheduled (but not necessarily regularly-uploaded) programming of my A.T. thru-hike in order to post an update about my latest adventure: teaching English in Malaysia! That’s right: after a lot of trekking, I am back to TEFLing. Hopefully I’ll get in a bit of trekking here too… Mt. Kinabalu is calling my name!
Anyway. I’m in Malaysia!
That’s pretty weird.
Less than 48 hours ago, I was in Florida. Then I was in Chicago. Then Japan. Then Singapore. Now here. The year 2019 feels like science fiction when I imagine it from the perspective of an early science fiction writer like Jules Verne, or even a regular person from less than 100 years ago. Sure, they had airplanes 100 years ago, but not ones that 25-year-old teachers could affordably use to move from America to Asia alone.
The trip was long.
But it wasn’t terrible. I had a middle seat on the flight across the Pacific, but the men on either side of me were courteous and no larger than I am, so it could have been worse. Then, from Tokyo to Singapore, I had “Economy Plus” seating—that row right behind the partition with the bathrooms, where you have enough space to stretch out your legs in front of you—and I was on the aisle. But that good luck was balanced out by sharing the 4-person row with a young family of four: mom, dad, a 2-year-old, and an infant on mom’s lap. Although the poor parents seemed both polite and prepared for the journey, at least one child was crying about 75% of the 7-hour flight. It wasn’t too bad when it was the little baby, but more often it was the 2-year-old, and she had a pair of lungs on her! Not whimpering so much as wailing. The parents seemed apologetic, but I always feel more sympathy for the parents of screaming children on a flight than for myself and other passengers forced to listen to them. This was a few hours for me. The poor parents are around those kids all the time. (*Far away in America, my mom sighs as she thinks about grandchildren.*)
Once I arrived in Singapore, I had my thumbprints taken in customs and then I was free! I quickly found my taxi. He got pulled over by police for using a truck lane to cut around traffic at the Malaysian border, and for a moment I was nervous, knowing Singapore’s reputation for strict enforcement of law and order. This was the land of jail time for spitting gum on the sidewalk. Would I be here all night? Would my taxi driver be arrested? But the officer was friendly, and after a few minutes and a fine, we were directed back into traffic. I don’t know how much the stunt cost the driver financially, but it did probably save us an hour of waiting in the line of at least 60 or 80 cars. At 2:30am! I can hardly imagine the border at rush hour. When I arrived at the hotel, I was shown to my room and despite the fact that it was midday at home, I collapsed and slept until morning.
So now I’m here. The hotel is nice, but a little unfinished. I’m going to be sharing the apartment-style room with five other teachers, but right now there’s no refrigerator or dishes or anything in the kitchen. What am I supposed to cook on this nice stove? What dishes should I wash in this kitchen sink? Also my toilet doesn’t work, and attempting to fix it, I sprayed myself in the foot with a bidet. Since then, I’ve used the bathroom out by the living room.
Ahh, travel. Sometimes it’s jet setting around the globe. Other times it’s moments like spraying your shoe with a bidet, or my dinner just now: not realizing how early the stores would close, I just bought cookies and milk in the hotel convenience store for dinner. But the milk came in a juice box and it was impossible to dunk in. With no cup or cup-like object in my room, I settled on creating a makeshift dunking pouch from the hotel bathroom shower cap.
And yet, despite a dinner of “Danish Fiesta Premium Butter Cookies” dipped in a shower cap full of juice-box milk, I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
I’ve gone too long without working (*Far away in America, my dad nods emphatically*). I’m ready to meet these kids and my new colleagues and to teach again. I’m looking forward to learning the ropes of this place and exploring Singapore on my days off and sending obnoxiously tropical photos home to my loved ones in the U.S. and Canada.
With jet lag, mishaps, and questionable nutrition, today was not the most glamorous travel day. But I made it here on my own. I already procured an outlet adapter (not always an easy task) and I accidentally learned how to operate a Malaysian bidet. I feel a little ridiculous, but also nothing if not adaptable. At this point in my life, there’s something ironically familiar and comforting about radical change. Upheaval jump-starts the best parts of my personality that fade when I’m burned out or bored in my daily routine. I feel energized and curious in a way that I haven’t since the early days of the Appalachian Trail. I miss people from home sharply, enough that I am thankful that this is a short-term position. But I’m happy to be here. And I’m looking forward to tomorrow.